Nov. 8 forum on 2019 Medicare health plan choices is at Roseville Library

 

A forum to help area residents sort through options as they choose a Medicare health insurance plan for 2019 will be held 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, at the Roseville Library, 2180 Hamline Ave. N.

Every year, Medicare beneficiaries may decide to keep or switch their Medicare plans during the open enrollment period, which goes through Dec. 7.

That is especially important this year because Medicare Cost plans will not be available in 66 Minnesota counties, including the entire Twin Cities area, because of congressional action. About 320,000 Minnesotans now have such plans.  

That still leaves many choices of plans that supplement basic Medicare — including keeping only Medicare, which covers less than 80 percent of medical costs and no prescription drug costs.

Speaking at the forum will be two Medicare experts, Brenna Galvin, an elder law attorney with Maser, Amundson, Boggio and Hendricks in Richfield, and an insurance specialist with the Minnesota Senior LinkAge Line, which offers statewide advice and referral over the phone at 1-800-333-2433.

The event, called “Medicare Changes That May Affect You,” is sponsored by the Roseville Community Health Awareness Team (CHAT), Roseville Alzheimer’s and Dementia Community Action Team (Roseville A/D), the Roseville Library and the City of Roseville. A similar forum two weeks ago attracted more than 75 people.

Medicare recipients — typically people age 65 and older or people with qualifying disabilities — receive Part A coverage from the federal program for hospital care and must buy Part B doctor coverage for a monthly premium, which next year will be $135.50 for most beneficiaries. Low-income people can receive plans for free or a reduced cost.

However, beneficiaries may buy either Medicare supplement plans that cover some of the co-pays and deductibles that Medicare does not cover, or a Medicare Advantage plan that wraps together Medicare and supplementary coverage. The choices can be confusing because some plans limit the doctors, hospitals and drugs they cover, and charge different premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

Many beneficiaries have been peppered for weeks with mail and e-mail advertising from insurance companies offering a variety of health plans.

Complicating the choices was a warning last week from the Minnesota Department of Commerce about bogus advertising and sales scams — sometimes from callers claiming they are from Medicare itself. Medicare does not call beneficiaries about health plans.

“When looking for Medicare on the internet, make sure you go to the official website at Medicare.gov,” the Commerce Department advised. “Don’t be fooled by private websites with similar addresses such as Medicare.com, Medicare.org and Medicare.net.”

The department also pointed out that insurance companies and agents are not allowed to make unsolicited Medicare-related phone calls, so “hang up on any phone calls, either live or recorded, trying to sell you a Medicare plan.”

 

—Warren Wolfe retired from the Star Tribune, where he wrote about aging and health care issues. He is active with the Roseville A/D

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